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NAS vs. SAN? Who Cares?

When it comes to choosing a storage architecture, Joe Mayer, director of the technology center at managed service provider Access Data in Pittsburgh, PA, has the same philosophy as a lot of his peers: "SAN vs. NAS? Personally, I really don't care."

What Mayer does care about though, is cost, availability and performance. These were the things he took into consideration last year when he set out to replace his direct- attached storage environment with a networked storage solution.

Access Data, according to Mayer, had "a classic problem:" 3TB of disk space distributed across its servers, with only 300GB actually being used. One server, Mayer recalls, had four of its six disks completely unused. "When I asked the administrator why, he told me 'Dell was having a sale.'"

Ultimately, Mayer purchased a SpinServer NAS server from newcomer Spinnaker Networks, which he selected for its HA features, and for the ease with which it allows him to expand his system. In its final form, AccessData will install a 4TB SpinServer, and a 1TB SpinServer at an alternate location for disaster recovery purposes.

At the same time, by purchasing a SpinServer, Mayer plans on being able to downsize his server requirements through purchasing used servers, which he says will cut his maintenance agreement from Sun Microsystems from $40,000 this year to down to $18,000.

SpinServer's snapshot capabilities will also help him consolidate costs by

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reducing the number of tape drives to 10, down from 30.

Mayer is fortunate in that he's been able to resist bringing multiple storage environments in house. "When I hear vendors talk about their heterogeneous management capabilities, I think to myself, 'Why would I want to do that?' I don't care what they say, I know I'm going to have an integration problem."

"I'd rather let the equipment I have completely depreciate, and then buy something I can grow into. I don't want to be putting my hand out again 18 months from now," he adds.

Mayer did worry about buying technology from a small start-up, but on closer inspection concluded that "the technology is solid, and with this many bright people on staff, I don't think they're going anywhere."

Seems like buying from start-ups is in his blood, he says. "I bought from Tandem in 1982."

This was first published in November 2002

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